Today the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize to Memorial, a Russian civil rights defence organisation.
The Sakharov Prize, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded every year to individuals or organisations that have made an important contribution to the fight for civil rights or democracy.
Formed during the perestroika, Memorial works to highlight political persecution in Russia and many of the former Soviet states. Memorial has specialised research centres to carry out investigations into violations of human rights, providing information that is highly valued by civil rights groups and international organisations.
Catherine said, "the Sakharov Prize represents Europe's commitment to the protection of civil rights and freedom from political persecution."
"Europe and Russia have a long interwoven history. We are all committed to strengthening our friendship and hopefully this year's Sakharov Prize has helped to do that."
"I congratulate Memorial for their commitment to free speech and openness in the face of great challenges. Russia's path from communism to democracy has faced many problems and some disturbing actions, but Memorial has worked tirelessly in the fight to protect human rights there. They have played an important part in this transition and I'm sure they will continue to do so."